Mike’s albums of 2008.

Ah, what a list this is! From where I’m sitting, this has been a stunning year for albums, nudging me to conclude that 2008 has perhaps been this decade’s finest year for music.

(The one disappointment has been the lack of African music – but then I did rather take my off the ball in that regard, having Mali-ed myself out by the end of 2007.)

1. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

An album I rate from a genre I hate (middle-youth indie-lite mope-rock, to be precise). Piercingly honest, palpably heartfelt songs of love, loss, loneliness, friendship and second chances. Pitch-perfect performances, exquisitely produced. You owe it to yourselves to see them live. (But maybe not at Wembley Arena in March. I can’t see how the intimacy would scale up.)

2. Late of the Pier – Fantasy Black Channel

Local boys done good (for once). Everything that the Klaxons promised, but didn’t deliver. Rowdy and screechy and all over the place. Am I supposed to be too old for this sort of thing?

3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

You have to be wary of albums which knock you out on the first listen, as this usually signifies a series of rapidly diminishing returns. And sure enough, I did reach a point over the summer where this felt somewhat played out. As it turned out, this was nothing that a couple of months of “laying down” couldn’t cure. An obvious pick, but the critical consensus got it right on this one.

4. Lindstrøm – Where You Go I Go Too

Perfect travelling music: epic, expansive, atmospheric, with slow builds towards intensely pleasurable peaks. (I want to say “soundscapes”, but it’s such a wanky word.) Is this Cosmic Disco, Nu-Balearica, or both, or neither? It’s so hard to keep track of these things. Shades of Jean-Michel Jarre and Jan Hammer along the way, and I never thought I’d be mentioning them in a positive context.

5. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair

Smart, sexy, moody New York neo-disco, from the ones who got away on the gig-going front. (Did they HAVE to come to town on the same night as Public Enemy?)

6. Portishead – Third

I have to be in a Certain Mood for it, stark bleakness not being my strongest aesthetic suit. Consequently, this is my least played album in the top ten. But when the mood is right, the effect is staggering. If I were but starker and bleaker, this would have topped the list.

7. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

I’ve had to vault the bar of their Springsteen-isms, and it’s a bar which prevented me from getting to grips with their earlier work – but there’s something new here (an expansiveness? an authority? an added depth and weight?) which keeps pulling me back, and a seemingly bottomless lyrical and conceptual richness which should keep me returning in weeks to come. In this context, Craig Finn’s comment that “hopefully on someone’s 75th listen, they get something that they didn’t get out of the 74th” is most reassuring. There’s no rush. Give it time.

8. Lone – Lemurian

Woozy, hazy, sun-bleached wonkiness from Nottingham’s king of the wow and the flutter. An imaginary soundtrack for the summer that never was.

9. Barry Adamson – Back To The Cat

Did I just say “imaginary soundtrack”? Perplexingly overlooked film noir magnificence.

10. Bellowhead – Matachin

English folk done in a big band style, by a veritable supergroup drawn from folk’s new breed (Spiers, Boden, the boys from Faustus). Jollier than its more Brechtian predecessor, and hence my feelgood album of choice for that crucial first beer on a Saturday evening.

11. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
12. Solange Knowles – Sol-Angel And The Hadley St. Dreams
13. Grace Jones – Hurricane
14. Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir – Ten Thousand
15. Lau – Lau Live
16. The Dodos – Visiter
17. Geeneus – Volumes One
18. Amadou & Mariam – Welcome To Mali
19. The P Brothers – The Gas
20. The Bug – The Zoo

21. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim
22. Joan As Polce Woman – To Survive
23. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
24. Martha Wainwright – I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too
25. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
26. Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
27. Neil Diamond – Home Before Dark
28. Paul Weller – 22 Dreams
29. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
30. Rokia Traoré – Tchamantché

31. Estelle – Shine
32. Lambchop – OH (Ohio)
33. Jamie Lidell – Jim
34. Benga – Diary of an Afro Warrior
35. The Breeders – Mountain Battles
36. Various / Fred Deakin – Nu Balearica
37. Mary Hampton – My Mother’s Children
38. Shearwater – Rook
39. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
40. Teddy Thompson – A Piece of What You Need

41. Drever, McCusker, Woomble – Before The Ruin
42. Faustus – Faustus
43. Kelley Polar – I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling
44. Camille – Music Hole
45. Various / Charles Webster – Defected presents Charles Webster
46. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
47. System 7 – Phoenix
48. The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing
49. Scooter – Jumping All Over The World
50. The Rascals – Rascalize

And what were your favourites? Do tell.

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